Moroccan ship held over complaint from W Sahara

2017-05-04 21:18

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Port Elizabeth - A Moroccan cargo vessel has been detained in Port Elizabeth following a complaint by Western Sahara that transportation of goods from its disputed territory is illegal, a lawyer said on Thursday.

The 34 000-ton vessel laden with phosphate from Western Sahara and destined for New Zealand was blocked from sailing off on Monday following a court application seeking that the vessel return its cargo.

"The application was made by the Polisario Front and the Saharawi Democratic Arab Republic asking for the return of the phosphate removed in contravention of the international principle," lawyer Andre Bowley of Webber Wintzel told AFP.

"The vessel was detained on the basis of purportedly carrying phosphate mined in Western Sahara to be sold elsewhere in violation of international law."

The court in Port Elizabeth will hear the case on May 18.

The 190 m long Marshall Islands-flagged MV NM Cherry Blossom is being held in Port Elizabeth's port.

A senior port official Brynn Adamson confirmed the vessel was at "anchorage just outside the harbour" and that the "cargo has definitely been attached."

Morocco and the Polisario fought for control of Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, when Rabat took over the desert territory before the signing of the UN-brokered ceasefire.

Rabat, which considers Western Sahara an integral part of Morocco, proposes autonomy for the resource-rich territory, but the Polisario insists on an independence referendum.

The UN last week set its sights on restarting political talks between Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario on settling the decades-old conflict.

Read more on:    morocco  |  port elizabeth  |  western sahara

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